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Financially-troubled Philippine Airlines (PAL) is in a three-corned fight with its
pilots, flight attendants and ground crew.
The airline's latest troubles started in July when it downgraded 20 pilots
from the Airbus A320 twinjet fleet to its ATR 72-500 turboprop fleet, with
lower salaries. This was closely followed by the departure of 25 of its A320
pilots, who went to better-paying jobs with other airlines in South-East Asia
and the Middle East. More are threatening to leave.
According to PAL President Jaime Bautista, the 25 pilots are still
contractually bound to the airline for their training expenses.
"We have rejected their resignations and are willing to take them back
without taking any action against them," Bautista says. Meanwhile, an
official of the Department of Transportation and Communications tells
Asian Aviation that some of the pilots have left the country.
The exodus has resulted in the daily cancellation of domestic and
international flights operated by the A320 aircraft. PAL has warned the
25 pilots to report for work or face criminal and administrative charges.
Bautista declines to specify what criminal charges may be brought against
At the same time, the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of
the Philippines (FASAP) wants salaries reviewed under a new collective
bargaining agreement. FASAP has rejected PAL's offer of a one-off 80 million
(US$1.78 million) payment to PAL's 1600 flight attendants. Each flight
attendant would receive 50,000 pesos.
FASAP has warned that the 1,600 flight attendants would strike if the
airline's management continues to ignore the union's demands. Bautista
says the carrier has contingency measures in place, should the flight
attendants decide to go on strike.
"There is a legal process involved, which the parties concern respect and
adhere to before deciding to strike," the PAL chief says.
Meanwhile, 3,000 ground-crew members of the Philippine Airlines
Employees' Association, have said they are prepared to do everything to
stop PAL from going ahead with a decision to outsource in-flight catering,
ground handling and reservations/ticketing as part of a plan to cut
operating costs. The outsourcing would lead to the retrenchment of 2,600
workers. An earlier plan would have led to the loss of 3,000-4,000 jobs.
PAL hopes to save US$750 million a year from the closure of the three
Bautista says the airline's cost-cutting moves come at a critical time, since
the carrier was badly hurt by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
PAL reported a loss of US$301.4 million for the year ended 31 March, a
stark contrast to its US$30.6 million profit in 2008. -- William Dennis
PAL faces disputes with
three labour unions
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